About Arlen Specter

Arlen Specter (Feb. 12, 1930 – Oct. 14, 2012) was Pennsylvania's longest-serving United States Senator. Specter had an extraordinary career in public service, from his work as a young assistant counsel to the Warren Commission investigation of the Kennedy assassination, to his two terms as District Attorney of Philadelphia, to his thirty years in the U.S. Senate.

Highlights of Specter’s Senate career included his role as a champion of biomedical research and support of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control; his long service on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he participated in hearings for 13 nominees to the Supreme Court and crafted legislation on civil rights, constitutional law, and privacy; his work on anti-crime legislation, such as the Armed Career Criminal Act and the Terrorism Prosecution Act, and his efforts to save the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice; his extensive foreign travel, where he met with world leaders such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Benjamin Netanyahu, Benazir Bhutto, Hosni Mubarak, Yasser Arafat, Fidel Castro, and many others; his advocacy for veterans through legislation and his service on the Veterans Affairs Committee; and his fortitude in maintaining all of his senatorial activities through two battles with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2005 and 2008.

As a young man, Specter was a registered Democrat, but ran on the Republican ticket in his first campaign for District Attorney of Philadelphia in 1965. He remained a member of the GOP until re-registering as a Democrat in 2009, a move he made because he felt his positions were no longer aligned with those of the Republican Party, and because he thought he was more likely to retain his seat as a Democrat. Specter was an independent-minded moderate, who counseled compromise even as both houses of Congress became more partisan.